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6 Jul 2018

Black-Cockatoos love Centennial Park as much as we do

The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo is an iconic Australian bird but has been reported by Birdlife as declining across eastern and southern Australia. Despite this, the species has been increasingly observed in urban Sydney, such as Centennial Parklands, during the winter over the last two decades.

Dr John Martin from Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands has been researching these birds to uncover their habitat and food preferences. One thing is for sure: they love Centennial Park!

About the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Did you know that cockatoos are actually a type of parrot? The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo is hard to confuse with other birds in the Park, as it is larger than the more commonly seen Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and is characterised by black plumage with dramatic yellow colouration within the tail feathers and cheek patch.

Their breeding season is during the summer months (September – February), during which they disperse away from Sydney to woodland areas to find a large tree hollow within which they nest. Throughout the colder winter months, they return to Sydney in huge numbers.

Unfortunately, Birdlife recently reported that the species was declining in numbers across eastern and southern Australia.

Research in Centennial Parklands

Dr John Martin has been investigating this iconic bird, in collaboration with University of New South Wales Honours student Jessica Rooke. They tracked the movements of twelve cockatoos using solar GPS technology. By examining their movements and what areas they visit – such as urban, agricultural or natural environments – we are starting to learn where there might be opportunities to prevent the species from further decline.

Dr John Martin releasing a cockatoo with a GPS tracker

What they found

During the breeding season in warmer months, from September to February, most of the Black-Cockatoos left Sydney as expected. They found that birds travelled up to a staggering 154 km, with movements to Jervis Bay, Goulburn, Windsor, Gosford, and many places in between.

During winter, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos returned to Sydney in huge numbers. The research revealed that many of the birds returned to Centennial Park, attracted by the large amount of food in the form of pine cones from Pine Grove.

This study shows that Black-Cockatoos are moving long distances between habitat patches, foraging from a tree here or there in our highly modified, and continually expanding urban areas.  But there are many more questions to be answered we don’t know how long birds live, rates of breeding success, and what threats they face.

A Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo forages in Centennial Park

How you can help

This research is part of an ongoing project. Dr John Martin is asking members of the community to help better understand these cheeky and graceful birds by reporting their sightings on their survey which can found here.

If you would like to see more of the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos, then we would recommend popping down to Centennial Parklands this winter (the research says so!). Share your experiences us by tagging us on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.

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